If Sicario is widely considered to be one of the best crime thrillers of recent years, then Den of Thieves deserves to be right alongside it on that list. Den of Thieves is one of the most pleasantly surprising films in the past year. It had all the potential to turn into a stereotypical overly predictable shoot em’ up cops vs gangster crime genre flicks, but instead it did everything right.
LA’s top County Sheriff Department goes on the hunt for LA’s top bank robbery crew as they try to be the first to take down the Federal Reserve Bank. Leading the charge for the LA Sheriff’s is “Big Nick” Flanagan (Gerard Butler), who isn’t the kinda guy you would want to cross in any way, as evidenced by Nick’s constant bullying of an FBI agent ‘Lobbin’ Bob’ (Jordan Bridges) that keeps interrupting on his crime cases.
On the other end, Pablo Schreiber plays the bank robbers lead dog, Merrimen. He’s exactly the kind of guy you also don’t want to mess with, unlike Nick, Merrimen is ruthless and unforgiving. The man in between linking both of these crews is Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who is part-time bartender and driver for Merrimen’s crew, but he’s forced into helping out Flanagan’s team. Jackson Jr. can have the “Jr.” removed from his name because he’s big time and proves that he’s a legitimate actor, not just Ice Cube’s son.
There are a lot of moving parts and plot points, it’s why the two hour and twenty minute runtime is actually fitting. There is a twist midway through that changes the events and adds stake to the impending Federal Reserve Bank heist. Yet, another unforeseen twist awaits at the very end of the movie that will leave you gasping. The twists are a major bonus to a already spectacular film.
Writer and first time director Christian Gudegast crafts a smart and edgy movie that’s loaded with tension filled moments. The main characters have a backstory and home life outside of the crime world. Flanagan deals with marital issues and separation from his two young children. Donnie is stuck in between the law and crime, as he teeters on the edges trying to survive.
One drawback was the lesser emphasis on the supporting characters. I wish 50 Cent’s character Levi Enson was given more emphasis and backstory. There is a hint of his home life in a scene where his daughter is getting ready to head to prom and Enson gives the kid a “pep talk”. It’s one of the funnier scenes in a rather serious movie.
What quickly stands out is the raw gritty feel and look that this movie has. The authenticity that the film projects is uncanny. These characters are tough and living moment to moment on the edge that instill fear from a distance. The gloomy locales of the tough neighborhoods of LA are depicted as areas these characters would undeniably be roaming around.
This is by far a return of Gerard Butler to prominence after a run of bad movies. This is the kinda movie and roles he should be taking on predominantly, because it brings out the best of his talents. His interactions with Schreiber’s character are so slick and convincing that only a look or facial expression say all you need to know. It’s this subtle interaction that’s spot on.
There are no moments where the action and plot become stale or redundant. Everything about this movie is gripping and it sucks you into this fascinating dangerous world of high stakes crime. The intensity and tension is on at all times. It’s all you can ask for in a movie of this genre.
Fans of Michael Mann’s Heat will notice some similarities in Butler’s and Schreiber’s characters in comparison to those of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat. Both strong, though, no nonsense alpha male characters, especially in the “good guy” roles. Seeds are planted early on for the eventual showdown between Flanagan’s men and Merrimen’s crew, that scene is fairly lengthy but in all the right ways, it takes into the “den” to witness the face-off that’s brutal and action filled.
Den of Thieves takes you on a thrill ride from start to its mind blowing ending. It will literally keep you on the edge of your seat and hyped up. Gudegast hits a home run in his directorial debut. He mixes all the elements of action, characters development, outstanding acting, plot intrigue, authenticity, intensity and exciting tension to create this must-see movie. Welshly Arms “Legendary” is the end credits theme song that is perfectly fitting, because this movie has the makings of something legendary.